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Tenfold increase reported in pro-abstinence groups

DENVER (BP)–After five years of fighting values-free sex education curriculum, Joneen Krauth believes the tide is turning in favor of abstinence.
“It is awesome,” said Krauth, a former intensive care nurse who teaches public school workshops known as “WAIT Training,” which stands for “Why Am I Tempted?”
Krauth, of suburban Denver, organized the seminars, ranging from 90-minute assemblies to day-long presentations, after reviewing her son’s seventh-grade science text and finding a unit included instruction in condom use.
In north Florida, former teacher Pam Mullarkey is seeing similar success in reaching teenagers. The founder of Project Save Our Students (SOS) said her abstinence-based program has made presentations to 10,000 students in five counties. It is also beginning new works at a juvenile institution and the U.S. Naval Station at Jacksonville.
The Navy recently signed a contract with SOS to present monthly training seminars for new recruits under 25 years of age, she said, because of the military’s expensive problems with unwed pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
The day-long workshops also cover drug and alcohol abuse and finances. Mullarkey, who organized SOS after hearing about a 14- year-old student’s abortion, said many lacking personal restraint are also heavily in debt.
“They have a lack of self-control in spending, as well as with alcohol, drugs and sex,” she said. “We’re teaching people self-control and how to run their lives by goals, not by their emotions.”
Initiatives such as WAIT Training and SOS underscore key gains by the pro-abstinence movement, said Amy Stephens, a public policy representative for Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Five years ago she estimated there were only about 10 groups promoting abstinence and today there are more than 100.
Further highlighting the trend toward abstinence education is $50 million in federal funding annually for such curriculum, which went into effect Oct. 1 as part of last year’s welfare reform legislation.
By funding abstinence Congress has provided legitimacy to a different approach to sex education, Stephens said. Even people who once ridiculed the True Love Waits campaign now admit abstinence belongs in mainstream education, she said.
However, the pro-abstinence camp has a long way to go, Stephens cautioned.
Many groups designing programs are trying to circumvent Congress’ intent by mentioning abstinence — but not presenting it as a clear-cut alternative, she said. The abuses are so flagrant they will be the subject of congressional hearings next year, she said.
“They have been wailing and shrieking about this money,” Stephens said of groups like Planned Parenthood, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and others.
“Now, (premarital) sex advocates have stolen our language. They’re talking about abstinence as one alternative, but giving it less emphasis than condoms. It’s far different than those of us who would support waiting until marriage for sex.”
That view is borne out by a recent letter from Debra Haffn- er, president of SIECUS, to Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson. In it, she protested the policies of the newly formed National Coalition for Abstinence Education (NACE).
“While NACE favors restricted abstinence-only until marriage education, there is wide-based support for broader educational approaches to educating young people about sexuality,” Haffner wrote. “In (many) public opinion poll(s), Americans support the provision of sexuality education and HIV prevention.”
Typically, sex education begins during middle school, although Stephens said it is entering elementary schools as children begin reaching puberty at a younger age.
One of the problems with traditional curriculum has been its “non-directive” philosophy, which presents all sexual choices as equal, she said.
Stephens said such an approach thrusts children into adult decision-making roles that are beyond their capacity. She com- pared it to asking them to walk through a field filled with land mines.
Although their thrust is to promote so-called safe sex, she added, supporters of this comprehensive health curriculum hide behind “pseudo science” and say they are simply providing infor- mation on HIV-AIDS, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases.
“Another fallacy taught is that our sexuality is on one continuum — that you can be straight today and gay tomorrow,” Stephens said. “More kids than ever are questioning their sexu- ality because of the tremendous confusion thrown on them.”
Despite the pro-abstinence movement’s increasing numbers, Krauth said those who believe in waiting until marriage for sex need to concentrate on health issues. And they needn’t be afraid of allowing the other side to speak, she said.
“A lot of Christians take this ‘all or nothing’ approach and get nowhere,” said Krauth, a member of Mission Hills Baptist Church near Denver. “We say let the condom people in and let us come in, and let the best man win.
“The research is on our side. I tell students I want to teach them how to have good sex, and that the best sex is in marriage. When I ask teens what they want to know, it’s never about anatomy and physiology. Kids talk about caring, respect, dignity and boundaries.”
“WAIT Training” is having a pronounced impact, she said, with approximately 30 percent of those attending one 90-minute seminar changing their mind about premarital sex.
Mullarkey said the new federal funding will result in more programs to help keep teens from damaging their lives.
“I can see it already in the hearts of these kids,” she said. “They’re overjoyed that somebody is saying they don’t have to perform sexually. Some of the girls I see have shut down emotionally. They’ve been broken down because of early sexual involvement.”
“Kids want to hear about abstinence,” Stephens said. “It’s adults who don’t want to talk about it. If abstinence was pro- moted in this society, it’s adults who would have to change their behavior.”

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  • Ken Walker